By John Vennari
When Pope Benedict XVI “lifted” the alleged excommunications of the four bishops of the Society of St. Pius X in 2009, a daily secular newspaper in New York State interviewed me on the topic.
The reporter said a local rabbi told him the following: “We rabbis are concerned about a possible ‘regularization’ of the Society of St. Pius X. We fear this may bring about the Vatican’s return to the pre-Vatican II teaching that the Old Covenant is superseded by the New Covenant.”
It appears these Rabbis understand the doctrinal issues at stake better than many traditional Catholics.
Vatican II ushered in a new era that implies the Old Covenant is still in force and has never been superseded. A 1985 Vatican document, endorsed by Pope John Paul II, propounds this new teaching.
Thus we may ask in relation to the ongoing discussions between Rome and the SSPX: if today’s Vatican expects the Society of St. Pius X to accept the post-Conciliar “magisterium”, does the Vatican then expect the SSPX to accept the 1985 Notes that claims the Old Covenant is not superseded by the New?
I do not say the SSPX will accept this affront to Catholic truth (they won’t). My question is: will the Vatican expect the SSPX to accept this tenet of the new “magisterium”?
“Save Yourselves from this Perverse Generation”
The true Catholic doctrine on this point is clear. It is found in Scripture and the perennial magisterium of the Church. Christ put an end to the Old Covenant and superseded it with the New Covenant. He did this through his Passion, Death, and the founding of his new ecclesia, the Catholic Church. This new ecclesia (Catholic Church) would come to be the Kingdom of God on earth, the people of the Divine Covenant, the new Israel, the one and only social unit established by God outside of which salvation cannot be found.
Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, one of the most eminent American theologians of the first half of the 20 Century, reiterated this truth repeatedly.
The old Israeli commonwealth had been the true ecclesia up until the time of Christ. But “in rejecting the Redeemer Himself,” Msgr. Fenton explained, “the [old Jewish] social unit had automatically rejected the teaching God had given about Him. The rejection of this message constituted an abandonment of the Faith itself. By manifesting this rejection of the Faith, the Jewish religious unit fell from its position as the company of the chosen people. It was no longer God’s ecclesia, His supernatural kingdom on earth.”
Fenton went on to cite the example from Acts, Chapter 2. Saint Peter, at his first sermon on Pentecost morning, publicly told the Jews who had assembled to hear him that they must be baptized and become members of Christ’s true ecclesia for salvation. He did not tell them they had their own workable covenant independent from Christ. Nor did he invite Jews of his day to ecumenically join with Christians to be a “common witness” to the one God.
Fenton further noted that Peter did not direct his words to men of no religion at all. Saint Peter, the first Pope, directed his words to pious Jews who had traveled from various parts of the world to attend the religious feasts at Jerusalem. Nonetheless, Saint Peter told these well-meaning Jews that the religion of the Old Covenant would not save them, but they must enter the New Covenant forged by the Blood of Jesus Christ, the Catholic Church. He told them to “save yourself from this perverse generation” and become baptized into Christ’s new ecclesia. Scripture tells us 3000 were baptized that day.
Likewise, Saint Paul declares explicitly that Our Lord’s New Covenant “has made obsolete the former one,” that is, made obsolete the old Judaic Covenant (Heb. 8:13).
The doctrine of the supersession of the Old Testament by the New is a universal and perpetual doctrine of the Catholic Church. It is a defined article of the Catholic Faith that Catholics must believe. The solemn Profession of Faith of the Ecumenical Council of Florence under Pope Eugene IV, says the following:
“The sacrosanct Roman Church ... firmly believes, professes, and teaches that the matter pertaining to the Old Testament, of the Mosaic law, which are divided into ceremonies, sacred rites, sacrifices, and sacraments, because they were established to signify something in the future, although they were suited to the divine worship at that time, after Our Lord’s coming had been signified by them, ceased, and the sacraments of the New Testament began; ... All, therefore, who after that time observe circumcision and the Sabbath and the other requirements of the law, it (the Roman Church) declares alien to the Christian faith and not in the least fit to participate in eternal salvation, unless someday they recover from these errors.”
Vatican II initiated a new approach in Chapter Four of the document, Nostrae Aetate. Here we read, “Given the great spiritual heritage common to Christians and Jews, it is the wish of this Sacred Council to foster and recommend knowledge and esteem… the Jews should not be presented as rejected by God or accursed, as though this follows from Scripture.”
With a little twisting, perhaps, individuals could try to interpret this phrase in some sort of traditional sense. For example, they could try to explain it to mean merely that today’s Jews are not directly responsible for the sin of their ancestors putting Christ to death.
But Pope John Paul II did not interpret this aspect of the Council in a traditional sense, nor did his subsequent “magisterium”.
Here is just one example. Pope John Paul II said the following in a speech to a Jewish Community in Mainz, Germany on November 17, 1980:
“The first dimension of this dialogue, that is, the meeting between the people of the Old Covenant, never revoked by God, and that of the New Covenant, is at the same time a dialogue within our Church, that is to say, between the first and second part of her Bible ... Jews and Christians, as children of Abraham, are called to be a blessing to the world. By committing themselves together for peace and justice among all men and peoples.”
This statement of John Paul II is now quoted in modern Church documents to reinforce the new post-Conciliar teaching against “supersessionism” – against the truth that the Old Covenant was superseded by the New.
In 1985, the Vatican issued its Notes on the Correct Way to Present the Jews and Judaism in Preaching and Catechesis of the Roman Catholic Church. The document’s introduction bids the reader to take “special note” of Paragraph 3 “which speaks about Judaism as a present reality and not only as a historical (and thus superseded) reality.” When we turn to Paragraph 3, we see that the Notes quotes the above speech where John Paul speaks of “the people of God of the Old Covenant” which has “not been revoked.”
Far from claiming the Notes misinterpreted his words, John Paul spoke of his unqualified support of the document. On October 28, 1985, John Paul II said “[The] Notes on the Correct Way to Present the Jews and Judaism in Preaching and Catechesis of the Roman Catholic Church” is “proof of the Holy See’s continued interest in and commitment to this renewed relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people,” and that the Notes “will greatly help toward freeing our catechetical and religious teaching of a negative or inaccurate presentation of Jews and Judaism in the context of the Catholic Faith”.
Jewish groups lauded John Paul II for this new approach. The day after Pope John Paul II’s death, Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League issued a press release praising the departed Pontiff for his relations with the Jewish people. Foxman wrote of John Paul, “Most importantly, the Pope rejected the destructive concept of supersessionism and has recognized the special relationship between Christianity and the Jewish people, while sharing his understanding of Judaism as a living heritage, of the permanent validity of God’s covenant with the Jewish people.”
Foxman, and other Jewish leaders, applauded John Paul II for apparently rejecting the truth found in Scripture and in the defined dogmas of the Catholic Church, that the New Covenant superseded and made obsolete the old Judaic Covenant. Foxman rejoices in the error that members of today’s Jewish religion have their own covenant with God, and need not accept Jesus Christ nor convert to the Catholic Church for salvation.
Even more disturbing: The man who Foxman praises for championing this new teaching – Pope John Paul II -- would be later “beatified“ by Pope Benedict XVI.
Again, is this the type of new “magisterium” the Vatican will expect the SSPX to accept? Or is this one of those areas of the post-Vatican II “magisterium” that today’s Vatican will be content that the SSPX resist?
“A Spirit of Rupture”
Andrea Tornielli is a Vatican journalist who has recently excelled in unsubstantiated rumors about the Society of St. Pius X’s April 15 response. Though he appears to get key details wrong, it is clear he is in touch with Vatican officials either leaking confidential information, or feeding him false stories.
Whether the following comes from Tornielli or someone in the Vatican is anyone’s guess. Tornielli quotes what turns out to be the New Code of Canon Law, implying the SSPX would be expected to ensure “a religious submission of the intellect and will to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declare concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act.”
Does today’s Vatican consider the 1985 Notes, which effectively denies the truth that the Old Covenant is superseded by the New, as part of the “authentic magisterium” that requires “religious submission of the intellect and will,” even though the document may not have been “proclaimed” by “definitive act”?
This is part of the ongoing challenges the SSPX now faces in its determination to maintain the traditional doctrine of the Church. This is one of the many difficulties they consider when holding discussions with churchmen in high place whose intellects appear to be “hard-wired” in Conciliar thinking.
As CFN readers are aware, we are bound to accept Catholic doctrine of all time “in the same meaning and in the same explanation” as the Church always taught. This truth is enshrined the writings of St. Vincent Lerins, in Vatican I and in the Oath Against Modernism. Not even a Pope can command Catholics to accept new doctrines contrary to what the Church always held.
In closing, it is of great interest that the rabbis quoted earlier do not celebrate Vatican II as continuity but rupture. The ADL’s Abe Foxman does not see Vatican II’s (or John Paul II’s) approach to modern Judaism as continuity, but rupture.
Archbishop Lefebvre saw the truth about the Council from the beginning. In 1964, he said the Conciliar schemas “have a spirit of rupture and suicide.” He went on to say, “There exists a spirit of non-Catholic or rationalist ecumenism that has become a battering ram for unknown hands to pervert doctrine.”
1. See “The Meaning of the Name ‘Church’” by Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, American Ecclesiastical Review, October, 1954.
2. Regrettably, the notion that today’s Jews and Christians must work together as a “Common Witness” or in a “Common Mission” is the position of Pope Benedict XVI. This is laid out in considerable detail in “Common Witness and Significant Silence” Catholic Family News, April 2011. (on line at: http://www.cfnews.org/b16-significantsilence.htm – or available as reprint # RP1104-1440 from CFN for $2.00 postpaid).
3. Fenton expounds this magnificently in his book The Catholic Church and Salvation (Neumann Press, 1958), pp. 133-145.
4. Denzinger, 1348. [Emphasis added].
5. Quoted from The Hidden Pope, Darcy O’Brien, (Daybreak Books, New York, 1998), p. 316. This same text also appears in Pope John Paul II: On Jews and Judaism, 1979-1986, published by the National Council of Catholic Bishops, Washington, D.C., 1987, p. 35
6. The United States NCCB document God’s Mercy Endures Forever, Guidelines on the Presentation of Jews and Judaism in Catholic Preaching also quotes the Pope’s statement that the Old Covenant was “never revoked by God” in order to claim that Christ did not supersede the Old Covenant with the New. (No. 6) [Emphasis added]
7. Pope John Paul II, “Address to International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee on the Twentieth Anniversary of Nostra Aetate,” taken from John Paul II, On Jews and Judaism, 1979-1986, published by the United States Catholic Conference, (Washington, 1987), p.75.
8. “The ADL Mourns the Loss of Pope John Paul II,” Press Release of the Anti-Defamation League. April 3, 2005.
9. Vatican Insider, April 15, 2012. (emphasis added)
10. The Biography of Marcel Lefebvre, Tissier de Mallarais [Kansas City: Angelus Press, 2004], p. 330 (emphasis added).
Posted: April 21, 2012
Click here to send Letter to the Editor